Every day I open LinkedIn to find messages waiting for me. Invariably, these messages are from people who recently asked me to connect with them. Within milliseconds of my accepting their invitation, they have pasted the text of a pitch into their browser hit send.
Connect and Pitch
The messages are all the same, even when sent from different people, in different companies, selling different products and services. They begin by expressing their gratitude for the connection. Then they offer to help me with my business, it being rare that they know what my business is. A good many believe that I need B2B appointment-setters, help growing a coaching business, social media marketing support, translation services, or help developing applications for the web.
Let’s set aside the fact that they have created no value for me, nor have they engaged me in such a way that I might be willing to explore doing something different during a conversation. The long description of their product and service offerings are not going to compel cold prospects to engage with them or schedule a meeting. Speaking of scheduling a meeting, almost all of these notes include a link where I can schedule myself on their busy calendar (just for fun, click on one of the links and you’ll get some idea as to how well this approach is working; you will have no trouble finding a time they are available to meet with you).
Spray and Pray and Spam
The social selling crowd will tell you that one of the primary rules for effective use of the social tools is “don’t sell.” I tease them about calling something “social selling” when the first rule is “don’t sell.” Their advice here is sound, and it should be followed as if it is the first of the rules of effective use of LinkedIn (and other social tools).
The approach that we might call “connect and pitch” isn’t a good or professional approach to selling. It also isn’t an effective way to sell, even though I have heard friends say it must work or they would stop doing it, which one might challenge by looking at how many salespeople and organizations do the same thing with email, mistakenly believing the efficiency of an email trumps the effectiveness of other approaches.
Spamming people on LinkedIn, and that is what this approach amounts to, is not the best way to use the tools.
Most of us on LinkedIn understand the power of a large network. With more connections, you can see deeper into the network. Even more important, more connections means me people can find you.
As salespeople, we pay for the sins of salespeople in the past. The negative connotation around the word “sales” sticks, even though most salespeople wouldn’t know how to pressure someone to buy, nor would they try. The more people use the platform poorly, the less valuable it becomes.